Movie fans of a certain age may remember that eliminating late fees was one of Blockbuster’s final, fatal mistakes early in the new millennium. But one Oklahoma woman rented Sabrina The Teenage Witch from the wrong store and ended up charged with a federal crime as a result.
The New York Times shared a wild story on Monday of a Norman, Oklahoma, woman who ended up with a bit of a legal mess afrer failing to return a VHS based on an Archie Comics character. Caron Scarborough Davis had a 21-year-old warrant out for her arrest filed by a now-shuttered movie rental store.
Prosecutors said that Ms. Davis had failed to return a copy of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch,” a television sitcom that aired from 1996 to 2003. She rented the tape from a video store in Norman, Okla., in 1999, according to court documents.
She was charged with embezzlement of rented property, and a warrant was issued for her arrest in March 2000. The store where she rented the tape, Movie Place, closed in 2008, according to KOKH Fox 25 in Oklahoma.
As the Times piece notes, it’s actually unclear if the VHS is of the 1996 movie, the show that ran seven seasons that used that film as its unofficial pilot, or any of the made-for-tv movies that starred the same cast. Presumably, it’s one of the movies given that sales of full seasons on VHS were more rare than movies for a variety of reasons, not to mention the fact that the retail value of the missing VHS was $58.59, much more in line with a single film at the time.
Davis apparently learned about the warrant when she got married and tried to change her name at the state’s DMV.
“I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” she said.
Ms. Davis said motor vehicle officials referred her to the district attorney’s office for Cleveland County, Okla., where a woman explained the charge against her.
“She told me it was over the VHS tape and I had to make her repeat it because I thought, ‘This is insane,’” Ms. Davis said. “This girl is kidding me, right? She wasn’t kidding.”
Thankfully for Davis, the charge was dropped by local authorities due to the “best interest of justice,” which is another phrase for the store that requested the warrant is no longer in business.
The whole piece is really interesting and also includes an interview with the manager of the last remaining Blockbuster, which was chronicled in a very good documentary on, ironically, Netflix, last year. And it serves as a good reminder that just because the membership card in your old wallet may no longer work, you should probably check to see if that copy of Encino Man you “forgot” to return may cost you a lot more in legal fees than you should have just paid in late fees.